By Lily Sebastian, Hardy Eville, and Sara Creato
On January 11, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) transitioned from fully remote to hybrid learning, and for most freshmen, hybrid learning represented their first time entering the building and navigating all the firsts, like finding their way around the school, connecting with teachers face-to-face, and making new friends.
Though the transition from a smaller elementary school to the bustling high school is always challenging to begin with, transitioning from remote learning to in-person school adds another layer of confusion.
Arrows have been placed on the floors of each hallway, for example, to help guide students during passing time when foot traffic is allowed to flow in only one direction. Freshman Olive MacPhail said, “The most challenging thing has definitely been trying to find my classes and having to walk a certain direction in the hallway. I have gotten lost a few times, but the maps are really helpful.”
The social aspect of high school is something freshmen have not been able to experience at all until hybrid learning began. Being able to connect in person with staff members and classmates brings a bit of much-needed normalcy to this school year.
“I feel like I have been able to connect a lot more with my teachers since we are in person and not over Zoom,” said freshman Padriac Mullen, who found it hard to focus remotely.
Most students are content with going in only two times a week, as it allows them to see their friends. For freshman Ali Dyke, not seeing her friends had been one of the most challenging parts of the school year. “Now that I’m going into the building for hybrid, I’ve seen some of them, which has been really nice,” she said.
Others wish that there was more time for socializing. “We aren’t in person fully,” Olive said. “I haven’t been able to meet as many people as I was hoping.”
In a normal year, freshmen would have a number of meetings with guidance counselors and parents to get them prepared for high school. They would also take part in the annual STING (Students Transitioning Into Ninth Grade) orientation program and have an extra half-day before the school year started to become acquainted with the school building. This year the meetings were limited and online, and that early half-day could not happen.
“In September we were able to do an in-person modified orientation with kids in the building,” said freshman counselor and Guidance Director John Fiorito. “When we got closer to welcoming freshmen into the building for hybrid, we sent out emails inviting them in to do individual tours with [school adjustment counselor] Amy Lilavois and me,” he said.
The brief glimpse of normalcy that hybrid has so far brought has many students hopeful for the future. Freshman Samanatha Caldwell imagines an ideal school year: “I think we would all be happier and more cheerful,” she said. “Clubs could meet in person, and we could eat lunch all together again.”
The nationwide distribution of the Coronavirus vaccine is also making students hopeful.
“Just knowing that everything is going to be better soon has been keeping me motivated,” Ali said. “I know that it’s not always going to be as hard as it is now.”